From June 15 – 17, 2023, Rural Routes Through the Holy held its third annual gathering, this time at Camp Abegweit, a United Church Camp on Prince Edward Island. This gathering always fills me with hope as people come, drawn by the desire to be together, to worship, learn, talk and laugh, and risk possibility, buoyed by the sharing of stories. Tired as I because of alll the organization that precedes it, joy slips in as we gather and I am re-energized.
Around 40 people gathered to explore and create and celebrate the theology that rises and lives in rural places. We are the experts in our own experience. We were fed by speakers and table conversations generated by those speakers using the Rural (World) Café process. We were also nourished by worship, by a variety of prayer practices and workshops, by walks to the shore, Healing Pathway sessions, and ample, tasty food prepared by our caterers.
Julie Pelliser Lush opened the gathering with welcome and some powerful storytelling. We were inspired by her story to open to our own story with all it’s ancestors, even those from whom we might have averted our eyes. I felt we were inspired to consider how the diversity of people that exists within our own story can help us to listen to others’ stories and how holding our stories together, letting them breathe into one another, is a part of reconciliation.
Our main theme for this year was Restoring and Re-storying Community. We again welcomed Dr. Marvin Lee Anderson as our theme speaker and Rural Café facilitator. This theme was presented in four segments: Restoring and Re-storying Our Ancestral Relations, All Our Relations: How the Land is Us and More Than Us, Our Relations to the Stranger: Healing for the Country and Countryside and Going Deeper and Higher: The Joy of Deepening Community.
We always want to encourage the offering of rural experiences by those who are practicing and excited by them. So, we had our usual ‘Taster’ format (approximately 30 minutes each) presentations on Affirm in Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters, Faithful Footprints at Kings United, Pop Up Church, and Stations of the Rural Church. Marvin and Karen Archibald-Waugh led a beautiful adaptation of Joanna Macy’s ritual, Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors, Sara offered a prayer writing workshop, Karen MacLeod-Wilkie and Deb Walsh made Healing Pathway sessions available throughout the first two days of our time together and were fully booked. Kerry led us in Body Prayer each morning and in sung graces before each meal. Catherine welcomed us and led in opening worship with a story of ancestor Abraham and in closing worship with communion. We closed with a beautiful blessing by Sara Jewell Mattison.
Martin Dawson organized and sustained a tech system for us, not an easy task a church camp. Martin has also created a broadcast of Marvin’s talks, available online as a podcast at the UCRMN website under the Atlantic tab. These are also being broadcast on shortwave radio, all over the world thanks to Martin’s passion for shortwave and diligence in editing and making connections. You can read more here.
During the day Lynda Jewell provided music on the piano. On Friday evening we were entertained by The Carter Sisters an amazing duo of two of the Carter family, who fiddled and sang for us and had us clapping and stomping and singing.
I hope you’ll take time to visit some of the links included in this report to get a fuller picture of what happens at these gatherings. I hope you’ll follow our FB page at https://www.facebook.com/togetheronthejourney and add your comments to our posts so that our community will grow and deepen. You can also visit hemofthelight.com and hover over the Rural Ministries tab to read more. And you can always email us at email@example.com.
We are so grateful to the Regions of Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters and Bermuda Nova Scotia, to Cape Breton University’s Tomkins Institute and individual donors for their financial support. We’re grateful to Jenn Whittimore and to Donna Allen for supporting the financial tasks that need to be done in a venture such as this.
Save the date for our next gathering June 13 -15 with an optional add on day June 12th. More news to follow.
This year we’re also adding a Rural Routes Through the Holy (RRTH) Day Away, at St. Ann’s Anglican Church in Woodcock NB, just on the edge of Sackville. This will be held November 18th from 10 -3. It will have many of the same elements as the main gathering, including worship, learning, resources, good food and lots of opportunity for conversation Rural (World) Café style. More news and registration information will be coming soon. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, I send you all the hope and energy of our gathering to accompany you on your own rural journey.
Catherine (for the RRTH team)